Free Online Study Guide for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury |
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DANDELION WINE - FREE BOOK SUMMARY / LITERATURE CRITICISM
QUOTES - IMPORTANT QUOTATIONS (Continued)
12.) Tom has an unexpected reply:
"All I know is I feel
good going to bed nights, Doug. That's a happy ending once a day. Next morning
I'm up and maybe things go bad. But all I got to do is remember that I'm going
to bed that night and just lying there a while makes everything okay." (155)
The stubborn optimism of Tom's outlook is in stark contrast to
the constant questions and fears of Douglas, a view that is extremely pragmatic
and secure in its ignorance. However, the questions continue to haunt Douglas,
as death seems to follow him in the latter half of the book.
his great-grandmother nears death, Douglas receives this piece of wisdom from
her on finding someone else to fix the roof:
"Look around come
April, and say, ‘Who'd like to fix the roof?' And whichever face lights up is
the face you want, Douglas. Because up there on that roof you can see the whole
town going toward the country and the country going toward the edge of the earth
and the river shining, and the morning lake, and birds on the trees down under
you, and the best of the wind all around above. Any one of those should be enough
to make a person climb a weather vane some spring sunrise. It's a powerful hour,
if you give it half a chance..." (182)
This wisdom turns
the act of fixing the roof upside-down: it isn't about work or the sense of obligation,
but the privilege of experiencing the world from a different perspective. In this
way, Douglas' great-grandmother further conveys the sense of continuity in a community's
life, as well as providing him another way to appreciate life.
a close relative dead, however, the threat of mortality looms even more heavily
on Douglas. In his tablet he writes a list of why both things and people cannot
be trusted, reaching the following conclusion:
SO IF TROLLEYS AND
RUNABOUTS AND FRIENDS AND NEAR FRIENDS CAN GO AWAY FOR A WHILE OR GO AWAY FOREVER,
OR RUST, OR FALL APART OR DIE, AND IF PEOPLE CAN BE MURDERED, AND IF SOMEONE LIKE
GREAT-GRANDMA, WHO WAS GOING TO LIVE FOREVER, CAN DIE... IF ALL OF THIS IS TRUE...
THEN... I, DOUGLAS, SPAULDING, SOME DAY... MUST... (186)
part is an admission that he must die someday as well, but Bradbury leaves this
hanging on purpose. The melodramatic nature of this writing is a reflection of
Douglas' own state of mind, a refusal to take these truths in stride. Douglas
is still not able to admit his mortality to himself, and tries to preserve immortality
in his escapade with the Tarot Witch.
15.) Mortality, however, isn't something
to be avoided for too long, as we see in this passage:
was a time where things changed element for element. Air ran like hot spring waters
nowhere, with no sound. The lake was a quantity of steam very still and deep over
valleys of fish and sand held baking under its serene vapors. Tar was poured licorice
in the streets, red bricks were brass and gold, rooftops were paved with bronze.
The high-tension wires were lightning held forever, blazing, a threat above the
The cicadas sang louder and yet louder.
The sun did not rise, it overflowed.
In his room, his face
a bubbled mass of perspiration, Douglas melted on his bed. (211)
Summer, which had been a comfort and source of life for much of the novel, finally
turns vicious. The details are hyperbolic, indicating a lack of human control
as the heat forces changes (lakes to steam, tar in the streets) that can only
harm them. The mention of the cicadas harkens back to Chapter Thirty-Four, where
they are used as a natural measure of temperature that opposes the efficiency
of science; here, they become overwhelming, nature gone rampant. Douglas is overwhelmed
- not merely by the heat, but also by his experiences over the course of the summer.
This is the climate equivalent of the ravine which symbolizes the tension between
humanity and nature: this is the excess of living and self-awareness that threatens
to paralyze a sensibility such as Douglas', a capitulation to mortality and despair
when confronted with the ills of the world, those described in his tablet.
16.) He lifted one bottle into the light. "'GREEN DUSK FOR DREAMING
BRAND PURE NORTHERN AIR,'" he read."' Derived from the atmosphere of
the white Arctic in the spring of 1900, and mixed with the wind from the upper
Hudson Valley in the month of April,1910, and containing particles of dust seen
shining in the sunset of one days in the meadows around Grinnell, Iowa, when a
cool air rose to be captured from a lake and a little creek and a natural spring.'"
The description of the air is instructive in the range of
its imagination: in a sense, it parodies the labels of real products sold in markets
(a point driven home by ingredients listed in the paragraph right after this one).
However, it also shows a wide breadth of imagination: the pedigree of this air
spans decades and covers a good deal of geography, much like the stories of Colonel
Freeleigh and Miss Loomis. This is not only an antidote to Douglas' fever but
also a nod to the power of imagination and a creative view of the world. Like
the dandelion wine, this is bottled life - and like the ice house, it's a balance
against the excesses of summer and life, an admission that cold is as necessary
to a well-lived life as heat.
17.) "Tom, if this year's gone
like this, what will next year be, better or worse?" "Don't ask me."
Tom blew a tune on a dandelion stem. "I didn't make the world." He thought
about it. "Though some days I feel like I did." He spat happily. (235)
Tom's matter-of-fact statement of feeling like he created the world again
emphasizes the sense of control and immortality that children feel. Douglas feels
helpless, but that's because he's gone through a summer of awakening and maturing.
Tom is still firmly ensconced in the comforts of childhood, and carries this with
pride. The spitting accentuates this immaturity and its brashness.
The novel closes as it began, with Douglas in bed at his grandparents' home:
He shut his eyes. June dawns, July noons, August evenings over, finished,
done, and gone forever with only the sense of it all left here in his head. Now,
a whole autumn, a white winter, a cool and greening spring to figure sums and
totals of summer past. And if he should forget, the dandelion wine stood in the
cellar, numbered huge for each and every day. He would go there often, stare straight
into the sun until he could stare no more, then close his eyes and consider the
burned spots, the fleeting scars left dancing on his warm eyelids; arranging,
rearranging each fire and reflection until the pattern was clear....
So thinking, he slept.
And, sleeping, put
an end to Summer, 1928. (239)
The closing of the
eyes shows how Douglas is the master of his world, the same solipsism which has
the novel begin and end with his incantatory commands to the people of Green Town.
When he sleeps, the summer - and so the novel - ends. It's also a metafictive
gesture, that the sleep of the hero is the rest of the writer for whom the hero
is a stand-in. The image of dandelion wine as a kind of sun emphasizes the connection
between summer and the artifacts of summer, including the dandelion wine and the
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Free Online Study Guide for Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury